LEST WE FORGET

Flight Sergeant Hugh Benjamin FRANCIS

Service No: 442421
Born: Brighton SA 3 August 1921
Enlisted in the RAAF: 17 July 1943
Unit: No. 203 Squadron (RAF), Kankesanturai, Sri Lanka
Died: Air Operations (No. 203 Squadron Liberator aircraft KG911), north coast of Sumatra, 23 July 1945, Aged 23 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Albert Stanley and Gladys Madaline Francis, of Brighton, South Australia
Roll of Honour: Brighton SA
Remembered: Column 458, Singapore Memorial, Singapore
Remembered: Panel 122, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: World War II Honour Roll, National War Memorial of SA, North Terrace, Adelaide

Brother of Sergeant Dean Walter Francis (416665)

Liberator KG 911 of No. 203 Squadron took off at 0215Z on 23 July 1945 from Kankesantura on an operational sortie with another Liberator C 203 of the Squadron. Both aircraft staged through China Bay, where they refuelled before proceeding on the mission. KG911 took off from China Bay at 0500Z, followed by C203 at 0510Z. The task was to attack a convoy of fire vessels, “Sugar Dog” type, which were escorted by one vessel, moving in an easterly direction along the northern coast of Sumatra.

C203 made a successful flight to the target area, and sighted the convoy at 1112Z on 23 July which was stationary about 3 kms north of Sigli, attacked it and was met by accurate machine gun fire from all vessels. During his bombing run, the Captain of C203 reported seeing a large fire, which he took to be a petrol fire, on a hill side three to four miles inland from Sigli.

From the time KG203 took off from China Bay, no signals were received from the aircraft, although the Control Station kept calling until approximately two hours past absolute endurance.

C203 and an Air-Sea Rescue (ASR) Catalina, which was covering the track between China Bay and the target area, saw nothing of KG911 to or from the target. Two ASR Liberators carried out a parallel track sweep as far as Sabang on the following day without success. From the evidence available it was considered possible that the petrol fire reported some three to four miles from Sigli was that of the missing aircraft KG911, which had possibly met either anti-aircraft fire from the land or was intercepted by fighter aircraft and had crashed.

The crew members of KG911 were:

Flight Sergeant John Frank Dawes Churchill (1867412) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)
Flight Sergeant Keith Thomas Cook (430973) (Wireless Operator/Air)
Flight Lieutenant Charles Robert Henry Elmes (413842) (Pilot)
Flight Sergeant Hugh Benjamin Francis (442421) (Wireless Operator/Air)
Sergeant Raymond Knight Grainger (1250280) (RAFVR) (Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Colin Henry Hamilton (435624) (Wireless Operator/Air)
Sergeant Frederick Henry Harold Marchant (1320334) (RAFVR) (Air Gunner)
Warrant Officer Kenneth Charles Pickering (1265423) (RAFVR) (Navigator/Bomb Aimer)
Flying Officer John Vernon Prosser (164532) (RAFVR) (Second Pilot)

References:

Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records (RAAF Casualty Information compiled by Alan Storr (409804))
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 166/14/475